Discussing politics in the workplace is not always a great topic for conversation. We are warned by our mothers (early on) that it is not polite to discuss religion, finances or politics with our friends, neighbors or anyone else for that matter. They told us it was especially not appropriate to discuss those “taboo” subjects at the dinner table, during social events, or heaven forbid…at church or on dates with the opposite sex. So when is it OK? Personally speaking, it’s probably a good idea to discuss your political views with a future mate.

It may (or may not) make a difference… especially if you’re on opposite sides of the fence. It could potentially become as issue for some people. I have friends who proclaim they could never handle a relationship with a significant other who did not have the same exact beliefs as they did… whether it was with religion, money or for which mayoral candidate to vote for! Personally, I like a little “back and forth” as long as it doesn’t become too heated, and really…why should it? As far as the workplace goes, my mother never mentioned it. She was a homemaker and probably thought that’s where I would spend my life as well. She was wrong. As much as I love my home and my family, I also love my nursing career. I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for my experiences in the nursing profession. I have learned to care for patients from every walk of life and to appreciate our differences. I have also had the pleasure of working with many nurses during my career.

I must admit, we have had as many different personalities, quirks and personal beliefs as our patients. So why does it seem that the conservative beliefs versus the liberal beliefs in the nursing profession seem to separate the two groups so widely? My guess is that the nursing unions are more liberal. Nurses typically belong to unions. Enough said…but not really. I am a member of a nursing union although I consider myself to be conservative because of my religious beliefs. There are certain personal laws that I hold dear to my heart; laws that cannot be compromised ethically. I can appreciate and understand that other nurses may feel differently than I do. Some examples leading to differences of opinion range from assisting with termination of pregnancies all the way to voting for a “public option” health care plan. As I was working one evening shift as the charge nurse on my hospital unit, I had to intervene between two nurses engaged in an altercation.

The two were loudly expressing differing viewpoints regarding a current political campaign. Both were wearing their favorite candidate’s buttons (opponents in the race) which was obviously inappropriate for a nursing unit. I asked them to remove their “walking advertisements” which then caused me to be the brunt of their anger for the rest of the shift. By the next day, the political winds had blown over as most of them eventually do. Storms don’t last. Recently in the State of Minnesota, nurses came together to vote on a new contract citing the number one issue to be “Safe Staffing for Patient Safety.” Over ninety percent of the 12,000 RNs in the state voted for a one-day strike when hospitals failed to negotiate.

It was the largest nursing strike in the history of the US. Contract negotiations and another vote to ratify the new contract eventually averted a longer strike, but it was a perfect example of nurses who, across both political lines, came together for something they all passionately believed in. At this time, they continue to work together to assure patient safety. They are committed to the cause. Nurses are amazing, caring professionals if I do say so myself! We may have personal beliefs which are contrary to one another at times, but history has shown that despite those differences, we have many similar goals in life. We all strive for health, happiness and safety for ourselves, our families and our patients. Politics or no politics, nurses are nurses. Our mothers would be proud!